Nanomaterial Safety Policy


This policy is intended to provide guidelines for individuals working at the University of Florida that may use, handle or be exposed to nano sized materials during the course of their employment.


This policy applies to all employees engaged in any activity at the University of Florida wherein they may become exposed to nano sized particles of any material during the performance of their duties as employees of the University.

For the purpose of this policy the following definitions will apply:

Nanoparticles are engineered materials or other particles (see BACKGROUND below) being studied in research projects that have at least one dimension between 1-100 nanometers. Nanoparticles can be spheres, rods, tubes, and other geometric shapes. The small par­ticles may be bound to surfaces or substrates, put into solution or suspension, attached to a polymer or handled as a dry powder.


Guidelines set forth by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) 29 CFR 1910.1200 Hazard communication and NIOSH publication “Approaches to Safe Nanotechnology” 2009


Environmental Health and Safety Division (EH&S)

EH&S is responsible for the development and periodic review and updating of this policy. EHS will remain current with the literature that addresses environmental health and safety issues for research laboratories and regulatory agency requirements for research with nano­particles including experiments involving animals. EHS will assure the latest safety information is incorporated into this policy as it becomes available. EHS will ensure that controls for nanotechnology research are based upon the most recent regulations, directives, guidance, and/or other applicable information.


Departments are responsible for the implementation of this policy through the development of specific written procedures. Departments are also responsible for providing training of staff, and for the purchase of equipment or modification of equipment and systems as necessary.

Principal Investigators/Supervisors

Principal investigators and or supervisors are responsible for writing specific safety protocols to be followed by all employees in their laboratories while working with nanoparticles. They will provide safety training to their employees who may be exposed to nanoparticles as a part of their employment. They will also provide the required personal protective equipment to employees and see to it that it is used properly.


Employees are responsible for complying with the safety procedures outlined in the working with nanoparticles policy as well as with written safety procedures specific to the task they perform in the course of their work with nanoparticles. Employees must maintain an awareness of nanoparticle safety issues pertaining to the materials they work with and report safety concerns immediately. Employees are responsible for attending appropriate safety training and for wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with nanoparticles.


Nanoparticles have always been present in our natural environment. They may be naturally occurring such as in volcanic ash or from forest fires. They may be unintentional byproducts of our society such as in auto and factory emissions. Over the past several years they have been intentionally created or engineered. These very small particles often exhibit properties different from larger particles of the same composition, making them of interest to researchers and of potential benefit to society. Only limited information is currently available on the toxicity of a few types of nanoparticles. It is believed that some engineered nanoparticles may present harmful health effects following exposure. This policy focuses on practices employees should follow to protect themselves from the potential hazards of engineered nanoparticles.

Laboratory research most commonly involves handling nanoparticles in liquid solutions or other forms that do not become easily airborne. Even free formed nanoparticles tend to agglomer­ate to a larger size. Recent research of nanoparticles handling in fume hoods have shown that it is safer to use as small a quantity as possible when handling dry powder forms of the materials. Larger quantities, more than 15 grams, resulted in some airborne material detected in the breathing space of the technicians, (Tsai et. al.J.nanopart Res (2009) 11:147-161).

When research involves work with engineered nanoparticles for which no toxicity data is yet available, it is prudent to assume the nanoparticles may be toxic, and to handle them with caution using the laboratory safety techniques outlined below in the guidelines for handling nanoparticles. Also, spills of nanoparticles should be quickly and properly cleaned up, as detailed below.

Potential Routes of Exposure for Research Personnel

There are four possible routes of workplace exposure to nanoparticles: inhala­tion, ingestion, injection, and skin absorption.


Respiratory absorption of airborne nanoparticles may occur through the mucosal lining of the trachea or bronchioles or the alveoli of the lungs. Because of their tiny size, certain nanoparticles appear to penetrate deep into the lungs and may translocate to other organs following pathways not demonstrated in studies with larger particles. Thus, whenever possible, nanoparticles are to be handled in a form that is not easily made airborne, such as in solution or on a substrate.


As with any contaminant, ingestion can occur if good hygiene practices are not followed. Once ingested, some types of nanoparticles might be absorbed and transported within the body by the circulatory system. To prevent ingestion, eating and drinking are not allowed in laboratories outside of clearly designated areas.


Exposure by accidental injection (skin puncture) is also a potential route of exposure, especially when working with animals or needles. To pre­vent this, wear double gloves and lab coats, and apply the standard practices for working with sharps.

Skin absorption

Is the most controversial route of exposure to nanoparticles. In some studies nanoparticles have been shown to migrate through intact skin and be circulated in the body. Skin contact can occur during the handling of liquid suspensions of nanoparticles or dry powders. Skin absorption is much less likely for solid bound or matrixed nano­materials. Researchers should double glove to protect themselves from skin absorption and to protect their research materials from being contaminated. Outer gloves should be removed inside a fume hood or vented HEPA filtered bio-safety cabinet and placed into a sealed bag. This will prevent the particles from becoming airborne in the lab.


Safety Guidelines for Handling Nanoparticles

The practices for safely working with nanoparticles are essentially the same as one would use when working with any chemical of unknown toxicity.

  1. Write a Safety Operating Procedure (SOP) to outline the safety procedures to be followed in the handling of nanoparticles in your lab protocols. Use good general laboratory safety practices as stated in your Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP). For example; wear double gloves that are specific for the chemical or material, safety glasses or goggles, and appropriate protective clothing.
  2. All personnel participating in research involving nanoscale materials need to be trained concerning the potential hazards, as well as on proper techniques for handling nanoparticles. As with all safety training, documentation in the CHP needs to be maintained to indicate who has been trained in the safe use of the nanoscale material.
  3. No eating and drinking are allowed in labs areas where chemicals or nanoparticles are used.
  4. When purchasing commercially available nanoscale materials, be sure to ob­tain the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) and to review the information in the MSDS with all persons who will be working with the material. (Note that given the lack of toxicological data on the effects of nanoparticles, the information on an MSDS may be more applicable to the properties of the bulk material.)
  5. In some cases, the making of nanoparticles involves the use of chemicals that are known to be hazardous or toxic. Be sure to consider the hazards of the pre­cursor materials when evaluating the process hazard or final product. Users of any chemicals should make themselves familiar with the known chemical hazards by reading the MSDS or other hazard literature.
  6. To minimize airborne release of engineered nanoparticles to the environment, nanoparticles are to be handled in solutions, or attached to substrates so that dry material is not released. Where this is not possible, nanoscale materials should be handled with engineering controls such as a HEPA-filtered local capture hood, bio-safety cabinet or glove box. If none of these are available, work should be performed inside a laboratory fume hood. HEPA-filtered local capture systems should be located as close to the source of nanoparticles as possible, and the installation must be properly engineered to maintain adequate capture ventilation. Contact physical plant division for guidance, and EH&S for any required permits.
  7. Use fume hoods to expel any nanoparticles from tube furnaces or chemical reaction vessels. Do not exhaust aerosols containing engineered nano­particles inside buildings.
  8. Never work outside of a ventilated area with nanomaterials that could become airborne. If a research protocol requires work to be done outside of a ventilated area, contact the EH&S Laboratory Safety Program at 392-1591 prior to proceeding; a respirator may be required.
  9. Lab equipment and exhaust systems used with nanoscale materials should be wet wiped and HEPA vacuumed prior to repair, disposal or reuse. Construction/maintenance crews should contact the EH&S Laboratory Safety Program at 392-1591 for assistance.
  10. Spills of engineered nanoparticles are to be cleaned up right away. The per­son or persons cleaning up should wear appropriate PPE, including double gloves to prevent contamination with the spilled material. Depending on the size of the spill and the material involved the spill area can be either vacuumed with a HEPA filtered vacuum and/or wet wipe the area with towels, or a combination of the two. For spills that might result in airborne nanoparticles, proper respiratory protection should be worn (see item 8 above). Do not brush or sweep spilled/dried nanoparticles. Place a Tacky-Mat at the exit to reduce the likelihood of spreading nanoparticles on footwear. For assistance with clean up of large chemi­cal spills or those of toxic or unknown content contact EH&S Hazardous Materials Management at 392-8400.
  11. Many engineered nanoparticles are not visible to the naked eye and surface contamination may not be obvious. Work surfaces should be wet-wiped regularly – daily is recommended. Alternatively, disposable bench paper can be used. Wet wipes or bench paper must be placed in a plastic bag and secured before removal from the work area. It will then need to be placed into a second bag for disposal as hazardous waste.
  12. All waste engineered nanoparticles should be treated as hazard­ous materials unless they are specifically known to be non-hazardous. Dispose of and transport waste nanoparticles in solution according to hazardous waste pro­cedures for the solvent. For information on how to dispose of a specific nanoparticle waste, call Hazardous Materials Management at 392-8400.

Animal Studies

It is currently unknown how animals dosed with nanoparticles will excrete them. Metabolism and excretion of nanoparticles are dependent upon the route of absorption and the particle surface properties. Inorganic nanoparticles, such as titanium dioxide, are unlikely to be altered. However any chemical group added to the inorganic particle’s surface could be modified enzymatically or non-enzymatically within the body (Borm et al., 2006). Polymers of nanoparticles will most likely undergo enzymatic alteration but will be based on the chemical composition and specific properties of the polymer. Some carbonaceous nanoparticles have been metabolized in aquatic systems and it is therefore assumed that those with branched side chains or hydrophilic groups are targets for normal metabolic processes driven by oxidative enzymes (Sayers et al., 2004). It has been shown in animal models that certain polymer based nanoparticles are excreted via urine (Nigavkar et al., 2004). Radiolabeled nanoparticles administered to laboratory animals were found to be secreted in bile. Therefore it can be implied, depending upon the properties of the nanoparticle, that the feces of contaminated animals will contain nanoparticles or nanoparticle metabolites (Nefzger et al., 1984). The metabolism and potential risks associated with nanoparticle use requires that all potential contaminated carcasses, bedding, and other materials be disposed of in accordance with current regulations.

Dosing and necropsies shall be conducted within an exhausted hood, preferably one with HEPA filtration if available. Additionally, the composition of the nanoparticles will vary amongst animal study (IACUC) protocols, e.g. chemical composition, radiolabelled nanoparticles, nanoparticle structure, etc., so potential toxicity and safety control measures may also vary with each IACUC proposal. When IACUC reviewers have specific concerns about an IACUC proposal involving nano­particles in animals, EHS will address those concerns to make sure safety controls are included based on the Universities Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP) and or Biological Safety Program.

The following recommendations, useful for animal care personnel, address animal housing, waste and bedding. The method in which the animals are dosed with nano­particles will determine how animals should be housed. If the animals are subjected to an aerosol containing nanoparticles then they should be housed in “environmentally controlled cages”. If the animals are dosed with nano­particles via ingestion or injection then they can be housed in conventional housing. Staff that care for the animals in either condition should wear appropriate PPE to prevent exposure to airborne materials or materials on surfaces from urine, feces etc. Workers who are disposing of contaminated bedding should also wear the appropriate PPE, including but not be limited to; protective eye wear, disposable gloves, dust mask, closed front disposable gown, hair cover and shoe covers.

Registration of Nanoparticle Research

The registration of nanoparticle research is only required when the research falls under the criteria outlined in the Biological Safety Program as requiring approval by the UF Institutional Biosafety Committee and/or the UF Biological Safety Office .

Issued April 9, 2010